3 Lessons in Role-Playing From Grog Strongjaw

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“How is he this good?” Taliesin Jaffe referring to Travis Willingham, “ Daring Days

Week after week, fans are treated to amazing role-playing from the entire cast of Critical Role.

Role-playing in your own group can be daunting, but you can look at the consistently incredible portrayal of Grog Strongjaw for tips for getting started embracing your character’s personality—with advice straight from Travis Willingham himself.

Slight spoilers for Critical Role follow.

Don’t overthink

When you’re just getting into a character, it might be tempting to weigh every word and consider your options furiously to craft the “perfect” response when something happens in the game. But more often than not, your gut reaction to how your character would act in any given situation will be the most true to that character. And Grog is all about gut reactions.

“[Critical Role] is just like getting to play pretend and having an excuse to do that,” said Travis in an interview last summer at San Diego Comic-Con. “For me, I just show up every week, and it’s literally the first and/or second thing that pops into my head in any situation. And that’s what comes out.”

Listen to and play off your group

Never forget that you’re not alone–your fellow players are crafting your character’s story as much as you are. Avoid the temptation to zone out when they’re interacting with the DM, as you might learn something about their character that you can play off at a later time.

You also don’t always have to give a big speech or make a grand gesture to when a moment happens between your character and another. In a recent episode of Talks Machina (“Talking Critical Role – Episode 89”), Travis recalled an interaction with Liam O’Brien that paid off later.

“I as a player was beyond moved by [Liam/Vax] coming down into the workshop and just saying it straight to my face,” said Travis. “I had no reaction. I’m always one to crack a joke or do some word play or something… I didn’t have a reaction because I didn’t want to spoil it. I thought it should be left it at that.”

Embrace your character’s weakness

When creating a character’s personality, it’s easy to overlook the character’s actual stats. The cast of Critical Role, however, are very aware of their characters’ flaws–beyond just the numbers.

In Talks Machina episode “Talking Critical Role – Episode 89,” Travis mentioned that when he and Sam Riegel discussed character creation recently, Sam put into a words a philosophy that makes Grog who he is. Develop a character with a weakness and play the weakness, Sam said, and it’s an approach Travis has used with Grog since the beginning.

“We like the cracks, we like the dirty, broken [characters],” said Travis. “When I got that [INT] 6, I was like, ‘That’s all I need to know [about Grog].’

“If you do like RP and you have a group that loves it, lean into that low stat, because that’s where I think the funny comes from, and, sort of, the endearing parts of the character.”

What tips do you give new role-players? Share them in the comments.

Featured Image: Jesse Larsen

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